Health Literacy and Patient Education Materials
Health literacy is the best predictor of an individual’s health status. Health literacy involves the ability to acquire, interpret and understand the basic health information to improve health. Readability, writing styles, use of simple vocabulary and proper layout are some of the components that should be taken into account when creating health care literacy materials. The health literary material provided on Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) needs several adjustments ensure that patients with low health literacy level can understand the information provided.
Some of the items that require prompt adjustment include the writing style, vocabulary, and layout and design.
Patients with low-level health literacy skills will find it easy to understand if the health materials are presented in conversational style and active voice. According to the study conducted by Shoemaker, Wolf, and Brach (2014), the use of passive voice and multiple phrases and idioms slow down the reading and reduce the level of understanding. For example, in the health materials on PAD, “check the level of fats that you consume every day” is easier to understand than “if the fat build-up keeps collecting, your blood flow will be reduced”.
The use of nursing jargons is probably what makes patients refrain from reading health literary materials. Some of the terminologies, as suggested by Badarudeen and Sabharwal (2010), may sound easy but are rather confusing. For example, the author of the material on PAD has used the term “health care provider” to imply a doctor, but an average patient may think that the term means social workers and so forth. Additionally, some of the nursing terms used in the health literacy material, such as ‘intermittent claudication” may require the author of the material to provide a succinct definition. Other terms that may also require proper explanation include plaque blockages and polyunsaturated fats among others.
Layout and Design
The information and visuals should be presented in ways that make it easier for the patient to understand. Moreover, it should also be appealing. In the case of the PAD health material, the visual is not appealing. It is rather difficult for a patient with low levels of health literacy to know what the image represents. The picture ought to have been labeled for the patient to understand what it means. Furthermore, the layout is not attractive to the audience and a lot of information has been left out. For example, the material provides information about the management of PAD but does not give any information on treatment. Moreover, the content should have information about the absolute risks involved, instead of general information. For instance, instead of saying that people with diabetes are at a greater risk for PAD because of the damage the disease can do to blood vessels, it should read, patients diagnosed with diabetes are 50% or 80% likely to get PAD. As pointed out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009), such absolute information would make the patient more attentive to read and understand the matter thoroughly. In addition, the cover should be more attractive to the audience and probably include images and colors.
Besides the three suggestions mentioned above, it is important to develop the health literacy material in the language of the targeted audience. However, translating the material from English to other languages such as Mexican, Spanish, Somali, and Russian is also necessary because of time limitations and availability of resources. However, the translation of the material should be culturally and linguistically suitable.
Development of health literacy materials that lead to increased knowledge of a disease/illness requires information that is clear, appropriate, and relevant for the targeted audience. The health care literacy material requires some alterations in terms of writing style, vocabulary, and the layout/design used to ascertain that patients with low-level health literacy skills understand the message that is conveyed.
Badarudeen, S., & Sabharwal, S. (2010). Assessing readability of patient education materials: Current role in orthopaedics. Clinical orthopaedics and related research, 468(10), 2572- 80. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3049622/.Accessed on 16 January 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Simply Put: A guide for creating easy-to- understand materials, 3rd Ed. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/Simply_Put.pdf. Accessed on 16 January 2019.
Shoemaker SJ, Wolf MS, Brach C. (2014). Development of the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT): A new measure of understandability and actionability for print and audiovisual patient information. Patient Educ Couns., 96(3):395-403. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5085258/. Accessed
on 16 January 2019.